JMIR mHealth and uHealth (2020-01-01)

Benefits of Mobile Apps for Cancer Pain Management: Systematic Review

  • Zheng, Caiyun,
  • Chen, Xu,
  • Weng, Lizhu,
  • Guo, Ling,
  • Xu, Haiting,
  • Lin, Meimei,
  • Xue, Yan,
  • Lin, Xiuqin,
  • Yang, Aiqin,
  • Yu, Lili,
  • Xue, Zenggui,
  • Yang, Jing

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 1
p. e17055


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BackgroundPain ratings reported by patients with cancer continue to increase, and numerous computer and phone apps for managing cancer-related pain have been developed recently; however, whether these apps effectively alleviate patients’ pain remains unknown. ObjectiveThis study aimed to comprehensively evaluate the role of mobile apps in the management of cancer pain. MethodsLiterature on the use of apps for cancer pain management and interventions, published before August 2019, was retrieved from the following databases: MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane, CINAHL, Scopus, and PsycINFO. The effects of apps on cancer pain were evaluated using RevMan5.3 software, and the rates of adverse drug reactions were analyzed using the R Statistical Software Package 3.5.3. ResultsA total of 13 studies were selected for the analysis: 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 4 before-after studies, 2 single-arm trials, 1 prospective cohort study, and 1 prospective descriptive study. The 5 RCTs reported data for 487 patients (240 patients in the intervention group and 247 patients in the control group), and the remaining studies reported data for 428 patients. We conducted a meta-analysis of the RCTs. According to the meta-analysis, apps can significantly reduce pain scores (mean difference [MD]=–0.50, 95% CI –0.94 to –0.07, I2=62%, P=.02). We then used apps that have an instant messaging module for subgroup analysis; these apps significantly reduced patients’ pain scores (MD=–0.67, 95% CI –1.06 to –0.28, I2=57%, P<.01). Patients using apps without an instant messaging module did not see a reduction in the pain score (MD=0.30, 95% CI –1.31 to 1.92, I2=70%, P=.71). Overall, patients were highly satisfied with using apps. Other outcomes, such as pain catastrophizing or quality of life, demonstrated greater improvement in patients using apps with instant messaging modules compared with patients not using an app. ConclusionsThe use of apps with instant messaging modules is associated with reduced pain scores in patients with cancer-related pain, and patient acceptance of these apps is high. Apps without instant messaging modules are associated with relatively higher pain scores. The presence of an instant messaging module may be a key factor affecting the effect of an app on cancer pain.